One of my favorite cities. The food is fantastic, you'll love it if you are familiar with emerging countries.
Renaissance Jaraqua has a casino attached and though it isn't my thing I do enjoy the merenque band that is inside.
Lincoln Ave is the high end area of Santo Domingo, big lights, Porsche and Benz everywhere. Follow it north and you find the Botanical Gardens and the best shopping centres.
You are staying at the Jaraqua on the Malecon (sea side drive) and it is very close to Zona Colonial. The is a world heritage site and full of interesting sites. Calle Conde is the shopping street which runs from one end to the other. My favorite area there is called Plaza Espana where they have transformer the original sea port shopping area into a gorgeous restaurant walk overlooking Columbus' original home and the plaza in front. Absolutely beautiful at night. My favorite restaurant in Plaza Espana is Pate Palo. The menu is very good and the wine list substantial enough.
Outside of Plaza de Espana, I have a wine locker at Porter House restaurant. Undoubtedly the best steak house on the planet, and a lot more reasonable than Pate Palo. Everything on the menu is good. Try the goat cheese salad and then the local steak called Churrasco, it melts and is the most flavor you will ever taste.
Sitio is a small restaurant but very good.
Saffron is the super chic place we like to go and provides the best food and modern atmosphere.
I haven't been in a couple years to Maison de la Cava is very proper red carpet but reasonable. It is a high end restaurant in a cave overlooking the ocean. You'll love it. White tie waiters and bare rock walls. Very nice.
Late night food, casual? Can't beat Adrien Tropical. You can walk from Jaraqua west to the ocean front one or there is another on Lincoln as well. Sancuco is the appetizer they serve (like thick soup) and myself and my kids are addicted. So good.
For fun: Cafe Trio or Cafe Metro. Both kinda loud though. Lots of late night spots for noise.
For quiet: Haven't found anything I'd pass on yet. My friends there tell me of jazz and blues clubs and soem other quiter venues but they have yet to share.
The number of good restaurants there out number any city I have travelled (and there has been a bunch) so enjoy and ask questions if you need.
Wow. Thanks for the great reply.
The hotel sounds like it's in a great location. We're going to spend 4 days there then head north for a couple of days on the beach. I've read that driving can be 'exciting'. We've driven in a number of other emerging countries and assume things are about the same here. Would you say that's true or should we plan an alternative to go north? Any good beach suggestions near the hotel would also be welcomed.
I stayed in Santo Domingo for a week in the Marriott there. It was great. My advice is don't shop for groceries at "American" places and don't buy "American" foods. I paid like 20 dollars for some peanut butter and jelly and bread! :)
I love the Malecon (Boardwalk on the ocean) and it's within easy walking distance from the hotel. The food is EXCELLENT at almost any little chicken and rice and beans place you top at. The pizza is not the same, even at Pizza hut. I was happier sticking with Rice and Beans.The ice cream at McDonalds is delicious. It's not vanilla, it's coconut or something. It's yummy.
We visited the grounds of the LDS Temple there and it was totally georgeous. I think my favorite part of the vacation was a tour of ancient Santo Domingo. You see Christopher Columbus' home, a jail where prisoners were kept, some beautiful churches and more fun stuff.
Oh, the drivers there are NUTS. The natives I was working with told me that there's always one more lane than there actually is...so a three lane road can be made into four lanes. They all think that way and no one follows any sort of traffic law, so that's kind of scary, but I'm excited for you and I hope you have fun.